Nearly 400 acres of land in Eagleswood and Stafford are being set aside permanently as open space thanks to its purchase through the state's Green Acres program.

Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Hajna says the purchase will preserve high quality Pinelands habitat in the headwaters of Cedar Run, Westecunk and Mill Creeks which are triubtaries of Barnegat Bay. Hajna says "one of the best ways of protecting water quality in any estuary is to preserve land. Land acts as a buffer to development. It also filters pollutants."

The DEP says $607,052 was used to acquire two separate properties from the Internatonal Recycling Systems. 249 acres were purchased in Eagleswood and 136 acres in Stafford, bringing the total number of land preserved in the Stafford Forge Wildlife Management Areas to more than 11,500 acres.

Hajna says the preservation is part of Governor Chris Christie's 10-point plan aimed at protecting the Barnegat Bay that was announced in 2010. It's a plan that includes the early closure of Oyster Creek and setting restrictions on fertilizers used. Hajna says the Administration "has preserved more than 2,000 acres in the Barnegat Bay Watershed and we're on pace to preserving 3,000 acres in the watershed by the end of the year.

Hajna says the Christie Administration has its sights set on a more ambitious goal and that's on preserving 50,000 acres in the watershed.

The DEP says both properties consist of pine and oak forests that provide suitable habitat for species such as the state-endangered PIne Barrens Tree Frog, The state-threatened Northern Pine Snake and the Pine Warbler.